I have always been passionate about promoting girls’ education, and in July of 2017, I decided to channel that passion by making a trip to PPES. For the past few years, in my hometown of Portland, OR, I have volunteered with REAL: Youth To Youth, a non-profit organization that provides grants to rural schools in order to promote literacy to underprivileged students. Our organization has been supporting PPES with substantial grants for the past few years and this trip was also a means of seeing the work PPES does for the girls of Anupshahr, and identifying how REAL can direct funding to fill resource gaps at the school.
Speaking with Mr. Sam, Mr. Jose, and the other staff at the school was compelling because their passion for serving these students was extremely evident. When I first arrived at the school, the excitement of the girls to see us was contagious! The respect the students give towards volunteers is humbling and their sincere interest in learning is inspiring.
During my trip, I spent time in the math lab helping some of the students solve homework problems, the English lab teaching geography of the world with some blank maps I brought from the US, and the art room conducting an art project—also with materials brought from the US—in which the girls designed and decorated their own poster detailing their vocational plans for the future. Over 40 posters were completed and will be hung up in the school for all the students to see! On days the students were testing during class, I and some other volunteers would walk to the primary school and substitute in for teachers that needed to take a break. With the youngest kids, we would teach them songs in English (“head, shoulders, knees and toes”), practice simple math skills, help them expand their English vocabulary, or teach them simple dances (Macarena, Cupid Shuffle). Though sometimes tiring, being in the classroom leading activities for the students was incredibly rewarding when I saw the smiles of pure joy plastered on their faces when they learned something new or understood a concept.
Other times, when I was done conducting lessons, I would speak with teachers about what they need most in their classrooms, or learn about the curriculum they prepare for the students. I plan to take these requests from teachers back to the US and determine how our non-profit can fulfill these needs.
Being a student, myself, in the US, it can be easily to take for granted the education we are provided and fall into the chasm of deep hatred for the institution that gives us so much. The girls at PPES reminded me that the opportunity to attend school is one that should be closely cherished, not reviled. During my eight day visit to the school, not once did I ever see a student that looked unhappy. When I was leaving the school, many of the girls would say I became their role model, but looking back on it, the students at the school are truly my role models because of their persistence in becoming educated, especially in an environment that represses women’s greater involvement in society.
My visit to PPES was extraordinary and I know my return to the school will be soon. I can’t wait to see the girls again one day and the progress they’ve made in their education.